News: Knight’s Brigade in the box – Part I: Torch Party
Story by 1st Lt. Henry Chan
HOHENFELS, Germany – Dawn had broken and the fog still lingered two feet above the ground when Soldiers from the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 16th Sustainment Brigade, or Knight’s Brigade, rolled their first convoy down to the Hohenfels Training Area to establish their field headquarters the morning of Apr 28.
This first group of Soldiers was also known as the “torch party.”
Combined Resolve II will include over 4,000 participants from 13 NATO and European partner nations at the Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Area, Germany in May 1- June 30, 2014. The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division – the unit aligned with the U.S. European Command – will fly in from Ft. Hood, Tx. as the main U.S. training force.
U.S. Army Europe’s only sustainment brigade, the 16th SB had been planning for months to provide nearly all field logistical support at Combined Resolve II, the largest scheduled multi-national exercise for the U.S. Army’s “European Rotational Force.”
Deputy Support Operations Officer of the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Lt. Erik Draves, from Milan, Mich., commanded the first convoy to Hohenfels on April 29, and started off-loading the first rail shipments at the Parsberg railhead, 5km from Hohenfels.
The Soldiers drove the tents, trucks and fuel tankers into an empty motor pool that they would call home for the next 40 days.
Knight’s Brigade Commander Col. Scott Murray said, “The Combined Resolve II mission gives the 16th Sustainment Brigade an attachment to a broader strategic mission, to support the rotational and regionally aligned forces rotating through Europe. It’s an honor for us and a great opportunity to execute [Combined Resolve II] at the JMTC.”
Murray has been focusing on what he describes as “operationalizing” the unit, and Combined Resolve II plays an imminent role in the unit’s development.
“[Operationalizing] means getting us back to our tactical roots, getting us back focused on our doctrinal sustainment missions,” said Murray.
When the 18th CSSB Commander, Lt. Col. John Bretthorst was asked about small unit missions, he said, “we’re learning how to train decentralized. When we get out to [Hohenfels], we’ll be dispersed. We will have to trust our junior leaders to run operations, but also manage our risk.”
As a junior officer in the support operations section, Draves said that he spent many late nights in his office putting together briefings and plans for Combined Resolve II.
“It was definitely a lot to shoulder,” said Draves, “The most difficult piece is juggling moving pieces around you. Different sections when we were planning, and as the first group on ground, you’ve got the convoys coming from Grafenwoehr, rail loads from Baumholder and working with people who I’ve only talked to over email.”
Bretthorst said, “I gave [Draves] the mission as a convoy commander and the supervisor of the rail-load operations. He came in and briefed me on the plan, we examined the risk assessment, and his plan.”
He continued saying, “I was confident in his capabilities and abilities, and gave him the mission. I trusted him to execute it, and he led the convoy down there successfully, did the rail offload successfully without any injuries or accidents. That is mission command; you give your trust, do your risk management and provide the guidance. You can’t be everywhere; you have to trust [subordinates] with the task, and [Draves] did so wonderfully.
“The saying is, ‘no plan ever survives the first contact;’ fortunately ours has [survived]. The Soldiers are performing excellently. The railhead took us half the time, and that was due to our Soldiers’ willingness and the Noncommissioned Officers’ leadership,” said Draves.
As the 6 ft tall lieutenant and his Soldiers complete setting up the field tents, he said, “most of our tents are up and we’re ready for the communications guys to setup the network. I’m looking forward to the exercise. Once 1/1 Cav. shows up and does the exercise, we as a unit will have a good idea on how well we execute these missions in the logistics world.”
The rest of the 18th CSSB will arrive to Draves’ site by May 5, and is expected to be fully capable to provide all logistical services to 1/1 CD, and the rest of the training audience by May 7.
Date Posted:05.07.2014 11:12
Location:HOHENFELS, BY, DE
Hometown:BAUMHOLDER, RP, DE
Hometown:GRAFENWOEHR, BY, DE
Hometown:GRAFENWOHR, BY, DE
Hometown:HOHENFELS, BY, DE
Hometown:FORT HOOD, TX, US
Hometown:KILLEEN, TX, US
Hometown:MILAN, MI, US